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Article   |    
Police Referral to Psychiatric Emergency Services and Its Effect on Disposition Decisions
Margaret A. Watson; Steven P. Segal; Christina E. Newhill
Psychiatric Services 1993; doi:
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This research was supported by National Institute of Mental Health grant MH37310 and the University of California, Berkeley, campus committee on research.

Institute for Scientific Analysis, 1950 Addison Street, Suite 103, Berkeley, California 94704

University of Pittsburgh

1993 by the American Psychiatric Association

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Abstract

Objective: Some clinicians and researchers have questioned the appropriateness of police referrals to psychiatric emergency services and have suggested that police exercise undue influence on hospital admission decisions. The purpose of this study was to test these assertions. Methods: Research clinicians in nine emergency services in California observed staff evaluations of 772 cases and rated patients' symptom severity, danger to self or others, and grave disability. They also reviewed the criminal justice records of these patients both before and for 18 months after the index evaluation. A total of 186 patients referred by police were compared with 577 patients not referred by police. Results: Patients brought by police were more likely to be subsequently hospitalized, but they were also more psychiatrically disturbed. They were more dangerous to others and more gravely disabled. They were no more likely to have a criminal record than patients not referred by police. Conclusions: Police did not exercise undue influence on dispositions nor were the patients they brought in more " criminal" than others.

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